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Russia: Tatarstan Blogger Sentenced to Almost 2 Years in Penal Colony

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more
Irek Murtazin, photo by Sergey Varshavchik

Irek Murtazin, photo by Sergey Varshavchik

On Nov. 26, the Kirov district court of Kazan, which is the capital of the Republic of Tartastan, convicted Irek Murtazin, a 45-year-old journalist and blogger, of defamation and incitement to hatred, reports Gazeta.ru [RUS]. The court sentenced Murtazin to one year and nine months of imprisonment in a penal colony (a form of imprisonment where convicts live not in a jail but in a special colony for prisoners).

About a year ago, in Dec. 2008, Murtazin – former head of Shaimiev's press service and currently an opposition blogger, aka lj-user irek-murtazin [RUS] – was accused of defamation against Mintimir Shaimiev, President of Tatarstan. On Sept. 12, 2008, Murtazin published a post in which he mentioned a piece of gossip about Shaimiev's death. He wrote [RUS]:

Пришла страшная весть…
…на 72-ом году жизни, во время отдыха в Турции (в Кемере) скоропостижно скончался Минтимер Шарипович Шаймиев.
Честно говоря – не верится. Точнее, не хочется верить. Потому что, если это правда, то начнется такая свара, такая нешуточная борьба за то, чтобы занять освободившееся кресло, что чубы у холопов будут трещать и вдоль и поперек. И именно из-за подобных перспектив, ближайшее окружение Минтимера Шариповича попытается скрыть эту информацию. Чтобы успеть перегруппироваться (вплоть до скоропостижной эвакуации из страны). Именно поэтому официальная информация, думаю, будет не раньше чем через неделю.

A horrible piece of news came in…
…Mintimir Sharipovich Shaimiev suddenly died on the 72nd year of life, while on vacation in Turkey (Kemer).
Frankly speaking – I can't believe it. To be precise – I don't want to believe it. Because, if it's true, then there will be such a mess, such a serious struggle to get into the vacant seat, that the peasants’ forelocks will be cracking here and there. And it's because of these prospects that Shaimiev's closest circle will try to conceal this information. To win time to regroup (or even to leave the country). This is why, the official information, I think, will appear not earlier than in a week.

The rumor of Shaimiev's death was disproven on the same day, but the shares of the oil company allegedly owned by the representatives of the so-called “Shaimiev clan” dropped significantly, says Lenta.ru [RUS]. In Dec. 2008, Murtazin was officially accused of defamation and infringement upon personal inviolability of Shaimiev (It is important to note that the court acquitted Murtazin only on this latter charge).

The trial lasted almost a year, and prosecution kept adding new accusations, blaming Murtazin for defamation and libel not only on his blog, but also in Murtazin's book “Mintimir Shaimiev: The Last President of Tatarstan. Part 1″ as well as in his news bulletin “Our Kazan News” (“Наши казанские вести,” which Murtazin described [RUS] in Oct. 2008 as a “print digest” of his LiveJournal blog).

Murtazin said he didn't agree with the verdict and would file an appeal.

Photographs from the trial are available here.

***

Irek Murtazin's bio (according to Anticompromat.org)

Born in 1964 in Bogatye Saby settlement, Tatarstan
1981-1990 – served in the Soviet Army, also in GRU (military intelligence unit)
1985 – graduated from the Kazan Higher Tank College
1990-1991 – assistant to the legislator Vladimir Lopatin
1995 – graduated from the Moscow Government Law Academy
1991-1995 – editor-in-chief of newspapers “Russian North” and “Gubernskie Vesti”
1993-1995 – editor-in-chief of TV-7, a local TV channel in Vologda
1995-1999 – bureau chief of the VGTRK (the largest state-owned TV company) in Kazan
1999-2002 – head of the press service of the President of Tatarstan
2002-2003 – head of TV channel “Tatarstan”
2003-2004 – head of VGTRK's Minsk, Belarus, bureau
2006-2007 – member of the regional branch of A Just Russia party in Tatarstan
2008-2009 -publisher and editor-in-chief of the news bulletin “Our Kazan News” (printed outside Tatarstan in Cheboksary, Republic of Chuvashia)

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